Narrow win teaches THS about leaving ‘door open’
Chieftains softball splits with JWHS
The Tonganoxie High softball team bounced back from a 6-2 loss to win 15-14 in the second game against Jeff West on Thursday.
After four innings, the Tonganoxie High softball team was sitting pretty with a nine-run lead against Jeff West. And although that sizeable advantage disappeared and became a deficit Thursday, the Chieftains were able to recover and rally for a 15-14, eight-inning victory.
Blowing that big of a lead (on the THS home field at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds) could be viewed as a negative, but Tonganoxie’s players and coach looked at it from another perspective after splitting the season-opening doubleheader with the Tigers — the Chieftains lost the first game, 6-2.
Senior third baseman Lindsey Fatherley, who stepped up with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extras before pinch-runner Emily Stafford scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the eighth, admitted her team should have put the game away earlier after building an 11-2 lead through four innings.
“But being in that type of situation, it actually made us better as a team,” Fatherley said.
Despite the alternating ebbs and flows of the victory, which featured a nine-run THS lead and a two-run deficit in the span of three innings, coach Lee Matzeder said there was a great lesson to be learned from the experience and he hopes it will come in handy as soon as Thursday, when Tonganoxie has a 4:30 p.m. twinbill at Basehor-Linwood.
“We could play Basehor and be up 9-1, and they better look back at this game and say, ‘Hey, let’s close the door,’” the first-year THS coach said. “If you leave the door open a little bit on a good team, they’re gonna make you pay for it.”
That’s exactly what JWHS did to the Chieftains. Down nine, the Tigers found confidence and started to swing momentum the other direction with a five-run fifth inning. Then they scored three in the sixth and took their first lead of the game with a four-run seventh.
As Jeff West crept back, Matzeder maintained a positive attitude.
He told his players: “By no means is the game over. You’re not losing, you’re still up.”
The coach credited Fatherley for her leadership through it all. She made sure her teammates didn’t question anything and Matzeder said the players’ attitude was crucial to avoiding a huge collapse.
“Man, she keeps the girls up,” he said of Fatherley.
The rest of the team, in turn, produced a lot of offense.
Junior shortstop Kaitlyn Wolken led the way for the Chieftains in the extra-inning victory, going 3-for-3 with an RBI and five runs scored. Angela Jacobs went 3-for-3 with two RBI. Tiffany Jacobs was 3-for-4 with three RBI. Fatherley ended 2-for-4 and McKenzie Knight was 2-for-5.
Eight different players — including Brooklyn Kerbaugh and Hannah Kemp — crossed the plate for the team’s 15 runs.
“It was a total team effort,” Matzeder said, noting each Chieftain played some role in Thursday’s doubleheader, including Stafford, the only player who didn’t bat or play defense.
Fatherley said it was positive to have so many contributors.
“It’s a team thing, not just riding on one person,” she said.
Jitters in loss
As far as the four-run loss before the lengthy extra-inning affair, Fatherley said the team was a little too anxious in its debut.
“Everyone was just hesitant,” she said. “They were scared to make the wrong move and after that (loss) we just started flowing.”
“I think the girls were nervous,” he said.
Tonganoxie actually led, 2-1, after six innings before Jeff West scored five in the top of the seventh — a result, Matzeder said, of him leaving starter Angela Jacobs in the circle a little too long.
“We could have won the first game and we knew that,” the coach said. “We just have to close the door and we couldn’t do it.”
The Chieftains had just six hits — one apiece from Kerbaugh, Wolken, Makayla Leslie, Fatherley, Kailan Kuzmic and Knight — in the setback. Leslie and Fatherley each drove in a run.
The best part of the loss turned out to be the attitude Tonganoxie took on for the second game, when the Chieftains came out smoking.
“We’re not going 0-2 tonight,” Matzeder said was the players’ mind set.